Free Apps for Calling and Messaging

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In a world dominated by social media, it is no surprise that a multitude of messenger applications have become popular platforms for communication via personal devices.

As if iMessage and BBM weren’t enough, many individuals are now turning towards application-based communication to fulfill their social desires. Applications such as WhatsApp, GroupMe, Line, Kik, and others, have become the forerunners of this movement, each offering unique features to users around the world. With new messenger apps being constantly released, it is difficult to label any of them as superior or inferior; however, minor differences can help users make the a decision that suits their most specific needs.

WhatsApp

WhatsApp is one of the most popular mobile messaging applications in the app store today, and has reported an estimated 10 billion messages per day from nearly 300 million monthly users.  Founded by former Yahoo! Employees Brian Acton and Jan Koum, WhatsApp is a simplistic communication platform to branch the gap between IOS, Android, Windows, and Blackberry devices. Users are able to send recorded voice messages, photos, and videos to group chats of 2 to 50 friends without the cost of obnoxious data usage. Additionally, WhatsApp allows for free international communication, subsequently setting the standard for mobile messenger applications. At a price of $0.99 per year, this application is a must have for techies and non-techies alike.

GroupMe

GroupMe, an application owned by Microsoft, was released in May of 2010.  Despite its lesser-known presence in comparison to WhatsApp, GroupMe was able to report 550 million messages per month by June of 2012, and can be downloaded from app stores for free.  Similar to WhatsApp, GroupMe users can send photos, videos, and text-based media to groups of friends from their IOS, Android, and Windows devices, as well as straight from their desktop computers.  Notable features include the ability to like messages, use custom emoticons, and share user locations.  Another feature unique to GroupMe is the ability to send money to your friends via credit card, making it easy to split the bill with your roommates, pitch in for concert tickets, or simply send your friends a gift.

Line, Kik and Others

Two other applications have recently risen to popularity all over the world.  In nearly two years, Line has become the largest social network in Japan and in addition to the 50 million users in Japan, it has reported around 300 million users worldwide.  Although Line is available for free download on IOS, Android, Windows, and Blackberry devices, it offers in-app purchases of unique sticker emoticons and game items.  The application features location sharing services, bulletin board style conversations with the ability to connect up to 100 users, multiplayer games, as well as voice and video calls.  Line is currently the largest social network application to offer video and voice communication, however, many users report slow connection speeds in video calls.  Lastly is the Kik messenger app.  Kik messenger is free to download on IOS, Android, Windows, and Blackberry devices but is one of the few messenger apps that does not require a phone number.  Instead, users can set up an account with simply a username to get started.  Kik users enjoy the easy customization of various settings such as chat bubble color and profile theme, and are able to create groups of up to 9 individuals.  Although Kik does not boast many of the features of WhatsApp, GroupMe, and Line, it has become incredibly popular amongst teenagers due to its capability to be accessed without a phone number.  Tablet or iPod Touch users have accepted Kik as the top messenger application for their devices.

There are many other notable applications that have been developed over the past few years; however, many lack the popularity that these few have gained.  These other apps offer the same, if not fewer, features, but are certainly worth the free download.   At the end of the day, your decision may come down to whichever app your friends have downloaded.  Otherwise, the features and advantages mentioned above may provide a good starting point.

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